- Who’s right of choosing language in media? - “Use of Pidgin in News Media” from New Hebrides Advisory Council, 22nd Session in 1971 [2014年11月26日（Wed）]
- Who’s right of choosing language in media? -
“Use of Pidgin in News Media” from New Hebrides Advisory Council, 22nd Session in 1971
Rieko Hayakawa, PhD scholar, Otago University
25 November 2014
Over the last few weeks I have been reading the Proceedings of the New Hebrides Advisory Council. The Council was established in 1957 and held meetings almost every year during the time of the English and French Condominium. (Jackson, 2008)
My purpose is to find out how telecommunication , including post, radio and broadcast, was discussed and developed in the past as part of a background history of Vanuatu Telecommunication. However, I found an interesting argument on the “Use of Pidgin in News Media” from the 1971 22nd New Hebrides Advisory Council Session and I would like to summarize it.
This record tells us how language in media was discussed under the colonial administration, and how “Bislama”, which is now one of the official languages in Republic of Vanuatu, survived in the media.
According to the Proceedings, Archdeacon Rawcliffe, a member of the Advisory Council, suggested the use of “bichelamar” (Mr Rawcliffe’s use of “bichelamar” is hereafter called by its common expression “Bislama”) as one of the languages to be used in the news media. He explained his reasoning as thus:
• Bislama is a language in its own right.
• It is a mistake to think of it as a form of English; a debased form of English.
• It is in fact a cultural achievement of New Hebrideans in the past.
• It is not something which has been evolved by Europeans.
• This is shown clearly by the fact that although the roots of the words are mainly English the grammar is entirely “Melanesian”.
• This is why he prefers some other name and not that of pidgin English.
Then Archdeacon Rawcliffe concluded;
“It is easy for English-speaking people to view this language as a form of English and therefore to think of it as being “quaint” or “funny” but once you look at it as a language in its own right and not as a form of English you view as something that should continue to exist as a lingua franca.”
He also suggested that Bislama needed an orthography rather than use English spelling, as PNG done.
At this moment I do not know who Archdeacon Rawcliffe is nor the background of this theme. I can only assume that the reason Archdeacon Rawcliffe made a motion on this issue was because of negative actions or opinions on the use of Bislama on Radio programs around 1970.
M. Delacroix, an ex-soldier and French businessman, disagreed with Mr. Rawcliffe’s argument and argued that Bislama should not be the third official language. He also suggested that speaking Bislama will be a disadvantage in the future.
“These who in this country will speak Bislama in future times rather than another language will see themselves cut off from several outlets and will find themselves limited in modern society”
Mr. Seagoe, A British District Officer, support Archdeacon Rawcliffe such as:
“… if we limited the language to English and French, 75% of the population and more will not understand what is going on in radio Vila. … broadcasting service is of more importance to the New Hebrideans than Europeans …”
Mr. Abbil, who in 1971 held a position at the New Hebrides Cooperative Department, suggested to use pidgin English on the Radio for some fifteen to twenty years when the Ni-Vanuatu could speak a major language (I assume English or French). He did not support Bislama as a full language in its own right.
Mr. Kalkoa, supported the use of Bislama on radio, and also made an indirect political comment for the future.
“.. I tend to think that the pidgin which is at present use in the Radio Vila is not up to the standard and I am afraid the Melanesian on Radio Vila need better training in this language”
“.. I should like to see pidgin English maintained, as far as this group or territory is concerned as we never know what may happen in the future”
He may have been referring to future independence and what may happen. Both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands obtained their independence in 1975 and 1978 respectively. I assume that the possibility of independence was discussed in Vanuatu in 1971 when this council was held.
Father Leymang, a Ni-Vanuatu Catholic priest, agreed with Archdeacon Rawcliffe argument for the use of Bislama in media, but “it should be second language between the islands to awaken people as to their belonging to a greater sphere from a political point of view..” and “..but (not) make pidgin into a written language and to an official language..”
Interestingly, Father Verlingue, a French Catholic priest, noted that one could not use either French or English as a base for the written Bislama language, decribing them as the worst languages to use for Bislama.
At the end of discussion the Council did not make a decision on the use of Bislama on Radio or not, and they also did not make a decision on an official language or not. The President of Council, Mr. Allan, noted that a vote would not be taken, and that the matter should be left to Information Services in preparing a recommendation to the Resident Commissions based on the debate.
- Discussions -
At this moment I do not have any knowledge and information of the background of this theme and the background of the members of the council, so my discussion will be very limited.
The majority of the Coouncil members held a negative impression on the use of Bislama as a lingua franca, while a few agreed to use Bislama only for their convenience. The exception was Archdeacon Rawcliffe who defended the right of Bislama’s use as a lingua franca
I focused on comments on Mr. Kalkoa who became the first President of Vanuatu (as George Sokomanu). He expressed a very strong political message about the uncertain future, which I can read from his indirect expression that there is the possibility and/or willingness of independence - in other words “self-determination”. So I would like to suggest that the Ni-Vanuatu were not passive in choosing or using whatever language in the media and their future. By 1971 they already had assertive intentions.
Also I need to study the Vanuatu independence movement more precisely, however, even with my limited knowledge, it is seen that Radio Vila had a great influence for the making of the identity and unity of Vanuatu, a country which has a great diversity of culture (Bolton 1999). Radio also had an important role for the independence movement (Lini 1980). In this sense this discussion on the determination of using language in the media is very important both culturally and politically.
Last but not least, I joined “Yumi Toktok Stret”, which is a Facebook of the Vanuatu people, to help my understanding of their social and cultural issues. I observed that members are using English, French and Bislama for communication in this FB. I feel they prefer to use just Bislama which I can not understand, but I feel good to see they use it, just as we Japanese use our own language in FB.
Father Walter Lini, "Beyond Pandemonium - from the New Hebrides to Vanuatu"、 1980
Bolton, Lissant, “Radio and the Redefinition of Kastom in Vanuatu” University of Hawai'i Press, Center for Pacific Islands Studies, 1999
A.L. Jackson “Towards political awareness in the New Hebrides”, Australian National University, 2008